Djerba is a small island in south Tunisia with white sandy beaches and whitewashed domed houses. The Djerban people are culturally distinct from mainland Tunisians and preserve many of their traditions and unique architecture. The medina in Houmt Souk is particularly pleasant and a cheap place to stay for relatively hassle-free shopping and eating. Resort hotels line the eastern coast in the Zone Touristique.
The best time to visit Djerba and enjoy the sun and the sea is the summer, from June to September. In May the temperature is warm enough, especially in the second half of the month, but the sea is still cool. In October the sea is still warm, and there are still many warm and sunny days, but the first depressions, which bring the first rains more to the north, can bring some cloudiness and a bit of wind.
No visa is required for Canadian, European Union, US and some other European citizens. A visa on arrival is available for Australians. New Zealanders must obtain a visa prior to arrival.
Buses between Tunis' south bus station and Houmt Souk's centre ville cost 26.750 dinars and take about 8 hours. The fare includes the ferry ride to the island. Night rides are common and fairly comfortable. There are also louages from Gabes and most other towns in the region. Be mindful that journeys from the north must cross by ferry at El Jorf, which can be subject to long delays. Allow at least an hour for this part of your journey.
Djerba's only (international) airport for scheduled and charter flights is Djerba-Zarzis Airport (DJE). Tunisair provides schedule service from the island to some major European cities, there is also domestic service provided by Tunisair's subsidiary, Tunisair Express, between Djerba and Tunis. A few European charter airlines also fly to the island. The taxi stand in front of the airport has metered taxis only. There's no hassle, no scams, and the ride to the Zone Touristique costs only ~20 dinar.
The train line ends at Gabes, 70 km to the North-West. From there, you must take a bus or louage to Djerba.
Public transportation is limited but taxis are available everywhere. They all use their meters, and prices are very reasonable. It is possible to hire a bicycle or a motor-bicycle but be careful as most roads are narrow and driving habits still Tunisian!
Houmt Souk: museum, colorful markets especially near Place de Algerie, Borj El Kebir and the marina/port to the north, and Habib Bourguiba street (a charming replica of the giant one in Tunis). Definitely walk around the port and check out the piles of traditional clay pots used for catching octopus.
Do not miss Guellala, a village where pottery has been made since the times of the ancient Romans and where you may watch a wonderful sunset. There is also a museum.
Fadhloun mosque on the Houmt Souk-Midoun road
La Ghriba synagogue in Erriadh village
Djerba Explore: hosts the biggest Mediterranean Crocodile Farm (over 400 creatures imported from the Nile River since 1992) and the impressive Lalla Hadhria Museum, as well as an interesting interactive traditional village in the back. 12 dinars per person includes entrance to all three sections.
Ras Rmel: Called the Flamingo or Pirates island is a peninsula where you can enjoy the virginity of nature. Flamingoes are present during October to ??. Ship cruises costing 20 dinars per person for walk-ons (and about 40-45 dinars per person for the hotel groups) are available at the Houmt Souk marina/port. The crews are energetic, passionate, and fun; the buffet lunch on the peninsula is wonderful, and the atmosphere of the day is unforgettable. The package runs around 9am to 3:30pm. Even for the most rough and ready traveler/backpacker, this is a cheap way to treat oneself to luxury for once. (for all that was included, I would easily have paid more, and I'm the hitchhiking type.)
Djerbahood: A fantastic, if somewhat confusing, street art project [] in the middle of the otherwise dirty and rundown town of Hara Sghira Er Riadh. It's a short 0.5TD bus ride or a 5TD taxi ride south of Houmt Souk. The town is tiny and easily negotiable on foot. Most of the street art is in and around what appears to be the local trash dump. You'll have to tiptoe among piles of trash and scraps of building materials to find all the art, some of which is truly beautiful. There are more pieces of art scattered throughout the town--finding them is like going on a scavenger hunt!...at which we perhaps failed as we only found a fraction of the art that is supposedly there. A fun few hours of exploration.
Enjoy the sandy beaches, visit Ras R'mel peninsula, rent a bicycle and visit the small villages; enjoy a simple and typical architecture, a silent countryside and beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Eat fresh tasty fish; go to the typical fish market. Do not miss a turkish bath. Visit the jewelers and admire bedouin silver jewelry.
A great place to watch beautiful sunsets is at the northwest side of the island is Borj Djillidj before turning left to Ajim. The quiet little port and lighthouse hosts the traditional fishermen who still catch octopus with clay pots and come back against sunset with their wins of the day. A most quiet and serene place sure to inspire.
Textiles, spices, dates, loofahs, traditional clothes, drums and pottery.
Eat fresh grilled fish, couscous with fish and lamb meat, try "brik à l'oeuf", Tunisian sandwich (casse-croute tunisien), lablabi (a chick-peas soup), salade mechouia (mixed grilled vegetables), tastira (mixed fried vegetables). Fricasse ( sandwich bread fried in oil and topped with various toppings). Gelato and pizzas from the souk.
Drink only bottled water, try fresh orange juice, mint tea, turkish coffee, bokha (fig/date local alcohool), celtia (local beer), l'ban (liquid yougurt).
There are many hotels available for all kinds of budgets, from the rows of deluxe hotels lining the beaches of the Zone Touristique to small, quiet, family-run affairs in the medina of Houmt Souk.
Hotel Djerba Erriadh: is a quiet, peaceful retreat in the middle of the medina of Houmt Souk. Traditionally decorated rooms with ensuite around an open courtyard in a whitewashed building from TND40 including breakfast as at May 2014. The staff are charming and helpful although only speak a little English. [email protected], www.erriadh.com
Auberge de Jeunesse: youth hostel in the medina, 10 minutes walk from the north fort and 15 minutes from centre ville, in the cool Place de Algerie. 8 dinars per person per night, includes a simple breakfast of bread, butter/jam, and coffee/tea. A charming place to stay.
From the bus station of Houmt Souk (gare routière) it is quite easy and cheap to get to the major cities in the mainland.